Monday, June 26, 2023

Tricks for working with linen

For years, I avoided weaving with linen, and when I finally tried it, yep.  It's hard.  So hard that I sent my loom to a friend's house to finish off the weaving, and even she had trouble.

I've gotten to know linen a bit since then, and here is basically the video I wish I had watched when I was a new weaver.  How to make weaving with linen easy.  


Friday, June 09, 2023

Dressing a linen distaff - ideas for next year?

Distaffs (or distaves) are used for all sorts of different fibres.  It's basically a third hand that holds the fibre while our other hands are busy spinning it into yarn.

Distaff Day is on the 7th of January and is the most important holiday in the spinner's calendar.  Well, I say holiday, but it's actually the back-to-work day but we do it with great fun.  

This year, I dressed distaves in flax fibre for spinning linen yarn.  

Here's a free PDF guide on dressing a distaff with linen fibre.

Last year I did the same with wool

Now, how do I up my game for next year?  Anything about distaves you wanted to know?

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Someone somewhere recently asked me how I plan and work on my videos.


So this is a list I made for myself.  This includes the videos I am actively working on and if they have any deadlines (and yes, dyslexia is a thing - don't even bother correcting, I promise it will do more harm than good).

To get on this list, the video needs to be in the filming, editing, writing, crafting, or gathering materials stage.  The list fails to include some of the long-term projects where I'm gathering footage over several years (I started a flax video in 2019 for example), videos still in the planning stages, or videos that got stalled in the editing due to not having the right story to be worth making... yet.  There are also a few secret projects that won't make it into this either.  

Saturday, April 08, 2023

Unexpected yarn

What unexpected yarn has fallen into your life?  Do you have a go-to project you love to make with found yarn or do you wait to see what the yarn says it wants to be?  

About a year ago, I stumbled on some free yarn, leftovers from the now closed local mill. Talking to people who used to work there, this was part of calibrating the spinning machine, so it contains a lot of different fibres from a variety of farms.  Most of them are less than a day's journey away.

So I made a thing.  And I made a video about the thing.  And the yarn.  And deep thoughts about the yarn, fibreshed, and my personal textile history.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Petticoats and possibilities - my quest for a capsule wardrobe continues


Hens are great layers.  But even better are clothes layered on top of each other.  It transforms a seasonal outfit into a multi-season extravaganza!  

Winters on the farm are muddy, mucky, bloody, and occasionally snowy.  I do a lot of laundry.  

Come lambing season, I can do two or three loads of laundry a day.  

So I want farm clothes that wash well, like cotton.  Only the problem with cotton is that it's not very warm.  It actually, what's the opposite of warm?  A single layer of cotton is terrible for working outside in the winter because if the cotton gets wet, it chills the human and can cause health issues.  So we could be forgiven for thinking that if a single layer does harm, a lot would do more.  

Layering the clothes creates air gaps that allow the skin to breathe and provide insulation so I can stay outside longer to get things done.  And since I often wear skirts or dresses when working on the farm, I can take my fall and spring cotton skirts and transform them into winter skirts by adding a petticoat or two underneath.  

This matches well with my capsule wardrobe goals. 

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Finishing a homegrown cloak

 Winter has been a bit meh this year.  A bit of a health setback before the Holidays and the only game we get to play on the farm is catch-up.

I've also been working away on several projects and finishing almost none of them.  

But finally, I got one done!  Just in time for (what I hope is) the last snowfall of the year. 

If you like the video, please pop over to youtube and leave a like or even a comment as it helps me out tremendously.  

And here is the full playlist that takes us from sheep to finished cloak!

I enjoyed this project.  It's the first time I've made something from sheep to clothing that feels like a quality garment.  What's more, it's a sheep from my farm!  One that I feed every day and who loves cuddles.  

In a lot of ways I've gained confidence.  I understand better how the yarn behaves in the woven cloth and that I can actually make something from scratch.  I also understand why a more historically accurate cloth would involve a lot more people: a shepherd, weaver, spinner, seamstress, etc. It seems almost that I lose as much as I gain doing each step myself.  

One of the things I worry about is this sets the bar too high.  Both for me and for viewers.  

There's no need to do every step ourselves.  I did it because I was curious if I could and I'm a cheap little chicken who can't always afford to buy the cloth I want to work with.  Even in this project, I combined modern cloth with traditional methods.  Add growing, spinning, and weaving the lining to the mix and I would need another year or three to get it done.  But even then, I don't think it would have been as good for the cloak as the lining I choose.  

It's about learning from history instead of trying to reproduce it.  What can I learn from the past and how can I incorporate it in my life today.  There's no shame in it.  There's no shame if a future project has bought yarn or I go to the shop and buy fabric.  And yet, it's a nagging worry that I now need to progress to better and better things, especially on my youtube journey.  That's not the path I want to take.  I want to make projects that fill me with joy, and sometimes that means buying yarn.  Sometimes it means spinning it.  

Sometimes there won't be any yarn involved at all.  

Most of all, I'm happy with the improvement in my video-making skills.  I'm getting better at what to film and what to leave out.  My voiceover confidence is improving.  I'm still seeking a balance between showing enough for the technically curious and keeping the story moving, but on the whole, I've moved up a notch and am now about 11% of the filmmaker I want to become.  

Monday, December 05, 2022

Holiday Plum Pudding recipe that I made in 2022

 So I did what I do when I want to make something new.  I got out a load of books from my library, the old family recipes, and my historical cookbooks.  This is the recipe I came up with.  It's a lot more flexible than most, but I've made it a few times and it is amazing!  Someone asked for it on reddit, but the post ended up being too long so I decided to share it here.  

Variations of the pudding go back a few thousand years so the recipes are more of a guide.  If you want the full Dickens pudding, go with brandy and suet as they would be staple ingredients this time of year.  If you can, get the shredded suet from one of the small butchers rather than the commercial stuff as that has a few extra ingredients in it and often doesn't taste as fresh.

This is close to the Victorian Pudding.  The recipe is heavily influenced by the family recipe which comes to us from the late Victorian period, but with more flexibility because dry fruit is expensive.  Apricots, raisins, and plums are my favourite mix.  Dates go well in it too.  But traditionally, people would use what they had to hand.  

It's usually made a month in advance, kept at room temp to cure, and boiled for one hour before serving.  I've read suggestions that this will keep 13 months at room temp, but I always eat it way before that.

The day before the big boil

- >500g dry fruit

- <100g candy peal (if you can't get it, chop up the peal of an organic orange or blood orange or leave it out)

- <100g candy cherries

- 150-200ml brandy

Mix together, cover with a cloth, and leave 12-48 hours, stirring at least once every 12 hours.

On the day

- 1 cup flour

- 2 tsp baking powder

- >100g bread crumbs

- 150g ground or shredded suet

- 1 tsp each spices of your choice (the more the better - chinamon, cloves, ginger, etc... adjust to your taste)

- pinch salt

- <150g brown sugar

- 1 apple or quince cored, peeled and grated

- 3-5 eggs

- zest and juice of an orange (optional - organic if possible)

Mix dry together.  Mix wet into dry.  Add soaked fruit.  Hold back the liquor and add as needed for texture.  It should be a very thick batter.

Now, this is very important if you are going for the Victorian traditions - everyone in the household has to have a good old stir.  Wishing is traditional.  

Wrap in pudding cloth (tightly woven cotton that has been recently boiled and rubbed with oil and flour on the inside) or into a pudding mould.   I don't put trinkets in my pudding as I don't want anyone to break a tooth, but now's the time to do it.  Be sure to boil the trinkets well to clean them first.  

Now to steam or boil the pudding.   Either is fine for this one, but if you are steaming maybe add another hour or two.  If you want to go full traditional, we'll boil it in a cloth.

Lightly boil a large square (about 2' per side) of tightly woven cotton or linen.  While wet and hot, place it wrong-side-up on a clean counter and rub some oil into the cloth (concentrate on the centre) then sprinkle some flour on top of the oiled cloth.  Turn the batter onto the cloth and tie it up with some string.  Place gently into a large pot of boiling water and boil for 6-8 hours (you can't over boil) being sure to check the water frequently if it needs topping up.

Alternatively, if you have a pressure cooker, it takes about an hour and a half at high pressure, slow release.  

When cooked, remove from the water and allow to cool.  Hang in a dark place until the feast day.  Then boil for one hour before serving.  

Do you have a favourite holiday dessert recipe you love?  Want to share?